Paul Christo, MD: Addressing Opioid Addiction during the COVID-19 Pandemic

October 7, 2020

Paul Christo, MD, discusses opioid addiction during the pandemic, the role of the clinician, and offers a hopeful outlook for the future.

For many people, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic lockdown measures have led to increased feelings of isolation, stress, and depression. As a result, many have turned to opioid use, thus leading to elevated instances of related overdoses and deaths.

With these initial restrictions on access healthcare services came the rise of and reliance on telemedicine.

In an interview with HCPLive®, Paul Christo, MD, Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, explained that telemedicine and “tele-mental health” services have become increasingly useful for those in need.

“As a practitioner, I think that it’s important to advocate to patients that they have connections that are available online via telehealth services,” he said.

He went on to underscore this relationship between addiction and a lack of communication and loss of control. Thus, he believed that the use of tele-mental health services can help such individuals to address these concerns.

Further, Christo mentioned certain agonist therapies, such as methadone and buprenorphine, have become easier to access and acquire through mobile / remote means. These medications are critical to maintaining sobriety and preventing relapse.

Another important medication is naloxone (Narcan), which is an opioid-reversal agent. And yet, there is little visibility of it across the population. According to Christo, there is certainly potential to improve communication related to the importance of the drug for individuals who overuse opioids.

In reference to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the opioid crisis, he nonetheless offered encouraging words.

“I think there’s hope, because of what we’ve learned from the initial stages of COVID-19, when everything was closed,” he said.